Using Social Media to Earn Links

If you have been involved in Internet marketing a while, you will know the SEO (search engine optimization) benefits of links to your content. You should also be aware that being aggressively self-promotional could be harmful to your search engine rankings.

Earned links, on the other hand, tell the search engines to sit up and pay attention. These are backlinks that other people create naturally, because they found your content useful or entertaining. Search engines figure that if people want to share something, it’s worth recommending to other search users.

Although quality content is more likely to be linked to, people can’t share it if they can’t find it. Make social media your new best friend and you’ll find it a powerful tool in getting your content noticed.

Make Your Content Shareable

To build engagement with your brand, it’s essential that you offer the kind of content people want to share. This could mean trying out new directions. For instance, the Outbrain report The State of Content Marketing 2012 found that 86.7 percent of brand marketers in the U.S. now include video in their content marketing portfolio. It’s a smart choice, since video tends to capture attention and attract shares and likes.

While entertaining content has the best chance of going viral, for most brands it pays to keep the focus on being useful. In this way, you position it as a potential reference for other people’s own content. Experienced bloggers and writers won’t just use your content as a resource, but will also link back to it and possibly quote you.

Take Time to Interact

The key to social media is to get involved. Use it too little and you might as well not bother. After all, nobody wants to follow someone who only logs on to link drop. Instead, aim to participate in relevant conversations and keep up a flow of interesting content. Seize the chance to make meaningful contributions whenever you can.

Add Value

Do your customers tend to run into the same problems or have questions that crop up again and again? If so, you have a great opportunity. Use social media to provide answers or point out topical information within your niche.

Even better, be poised to offer help at any time you spot confusion or dissatisfaction. This is a public interaction that will speak for itself months and even years after the event. If you can be responsive, not only will you have a happy customer but you could find others linking back to your post or comment too.

Seek Out Targets

To give your content the best chance of reaching a wide audience, identify the key influencers in your field. These are the people who have the power to generate cascades of reposts.

When doing this, look beyond Facebook or Twitter. Google Plus, YouTube, Pinterest, and Tumblr all have a worldwide user base. If you are marketing to specific regions, include the most popular networks in that locale. For instance, Orkut may extend your reach in India and Mixi is still worth a look in Japan. Meanwhile, if your market includes China, you will need to consider Youku and Tudou for video sharing, plus Qzone, Renren, Pengyou and Sina Weibo for other social networking activities.

Make Use of Tools

Fortunately, there are tools and services that can help you hone in on key contacts. Followerwonk, for example, is an analytics app for Twitter. It will analyze your followers in a number of ways, letting you track, sort and compare them. It also monitors your activity alongside total follower numbers, so that you can gauge reaction to your tweets by follower gains or losses.

Fresh Web Explorer is another Moz tool you might find useful. It tracks mentions of your brand or company and matches this with “feed authority”. This useful metric will help you sort the key influencers from lower authority domains. Additionally, it can be a helpful way to discover new blogs to connect with.

Draw Attention to Yourself

If your content is relevant to topics covered by a major site or blog, don’t wait to be discovered. Let them know about it. Of course, make sure you only do this with high quality content, so that you make the best possible impression. You want to be put on the list of go-to contacts that can add value, rather than earning a reputation for being a nuisance.

Sharing Can Boost Your Reputation

One reason why infographics have become so popular is their ability to earn links in the longer term as they are shared and re-shared. Even though there might be no initial SEO benefit from an image share on a social media site, in time web owners and bloggers could also start to link back to you – all with very little effort on your part.

This applies to other content too, so remember to repost and link back to quality content from others. You will not only be doing them a good turn, but doing yourself one too!

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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